The Miami Heat are struggling to get into the win column without Hassan Whiteside in the middle and are about to get a big test to the defense. The Heat hope to get Whiteside back from a four-game absence when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday.
Whiteside is out with a knee injury and is unlikely to return on Monday, leaving Miami without its star in the middle against Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, and the frustration is starting to mount for a Heat team that dropped two straight home games, including 96-90 to the Boston Celtics on Saturday. “I have high expectations for this team,” Miami point guard Goran Dragic told reporters. “That’s why I’m frustrated. Because we’re not playing at a level that we know we can.” The Timberwolves know what it’s like to be without one of their star players and dropped two straight while swingman Jimmy Butler battled an upper respiratory infection. Butler returned to the lineup on Friday and delivered 25 points, seven rebounds and five assists as Minnesota held off the Oklahoma City Thunder 119-116.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, FS North (Minnesota), FS Sun (Miami)
ABOUT THE TIMBERWOLVES (3-3): Towns is coming off his best game of the young season after dominating the inside en route to 33 points, 19 rebounds and four blocks in the win over the Thunder. “He was terrific,” Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters of Towns. “The activity, the shot blocking. He really played hard. He made a lot of great plays for the team. His patience was good. That helped us get into a good rhythm.” Another player finding a rhythm for the Timberwolves is point guard Jeff Teague, who collected 17 points and 10 assists in Friday’s win for his first double-double in a Minnesota uniform.
ABOUT THE HEAT (2-3): Miami’s 90 points on Saturday marked a season low, and the team is trying to figure out how to execute on offense without Whiteside. “Right now, the first unit we don’t look good,” Dragic told reporters. “So, we’re going to have to make some changes to our approach or how we want to play. You can learn from these mistakes. Hopefully we’re going to figure it out quick.” Dragic scored a team-high 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting Saturday and is averaging 20.2 points while shooting 50.6 percent from the floor.
1.Minnesota SG Jamal Crawford is 11-of-40 from the floor over the last four games.
2. Heat SG Dion Waiters scored five points on Saturday, failing to reach double figures for the first time this season.
3. Miami took both meetings last season and three of the last four in the series.
PREDICTION: Timberwolves 113, Heat 103